Ministers agree to EU ban on phthalates in toys

A group of hazardous chemicals used in toys and childcare products is set to be banned following a decision by the EU Competitiveness Council.

The chemicals - phthalates - are suspected of causing cancer, kidney damage and disruption of the hormone system as well as increasing the risk of developing asthma and allergies. They are used in softening various plastics and campaigners against their use fear that children can ingest them through chewing toys.

EU Competitiveness Council Ministers voted unanimously in favour of the ban of phthalates from toys and childcare articles based on the precautionary principle. This means the decision "can be reviewed in the light of new scientific data".

The European Commission issued a statement saying this ban represented a "major step forward in protecting children's health and ensuring at the same time the efficient functioning of the Single Market" after five years of debate.

Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Olli Rehn said: "The compromise reached today is an important step forward in helping to reduce the risks to children from certain phthalates in toys and childcare articles. At the same time, these measures will put an end to the present unsatisfactory solution in which the internal market is no longer able to function fully in this area."

Karine Pellaumail, Safer Chemicals Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

"Friends of the Earth congratulates the Council of Ministers for protecting children's health. This decision was long overdue and the European Parliament must now support the Council's decision when it votes on the matter. Innovative and progressive companies, including Marks and Spencer and Ikea have already committed to phase-out of hazardous substances and prove that substitution is possible but legislation is essential to make sure the rest of the industry follows suit."

Friends of the Earth called on the forthcoming REACH legislation to "properly address both the phase-out of all hormone disruptors and bio-accumulative chemicals and the substitution of all dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives."

By David Hopkins


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